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NCBFAA Urges NMFS to Rethink SIMP Proposal

A proposal to amend the Seafood Import Monitoring Regulations to require the importer of record to hold the International Fisheries Trade Permit and require foreign importers of record to appoint a U.S. resident agent to hold the IFTP would upend "longstanding commercial practices" with "no measurable improvement in SIMP supply chain tracking," the National Customs Brokers & Forwarders Association of America said in comments to the National Marine Fisheries Service dated March 17.

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Issued in December to clarify SIMP regulations and expand the number of species those regulations apply to (see 2212270034), the proposal would "clarify" that the importer of record on the Customs entry filing and the IFTP holder must be the same entity. In addition, it also requires foreign entities without a U.S. business presence to appoint a U.S. resident agent to serve as the IOR, hold the IFTP and be responsible for maintaining compliance with SIMP regulations. The regulations also clarified that while only U.S. residents may apply for an IFTP, a U.S. resident agent of a nonresident company may apply.

The proposed changes present a "sharp departure from current policy and a significant change from current practice in the trade," the NCBFAA said. The foreign exporter is often the importer of record for seafood shipments to the U.S., which are often delivery duty-paid (DDP) transactions because of "costly antidumping requirements for bonding and collateral." NMFS' own guidance says the foreign exporter can be the IFTP holder in DDP transactions, the NCBFAA said.

The proposal's requirement that foreign exporters must designate an agent to hold the IFTP, combined with the proposal to require the importer of record hold the IFTP, means that a customs broker would be the only entity able to be appointed as the agent. But customs brokers are intermediaries who do not have "direct knowledge or control over the product," the NCBFAA said. Brokers do not own and rarely see the products they work with. Their only understanding of the products they work with come from documents provided by their clients, NCBFAA said.

"We fail to see how SIMP is improved by shifting responsibility from a party (the purchaser/consignee) who has a financial interest in the product and greater visibility and control over the seafood supply chain to a transportation/import intermediary with limited knowledge of the supply chain," it said.

Comments on the NMFS proposal are due April 27 (see 2303300026).